On Sunday Wembley Stadium hosted the 10th NFL International Series game to be staged in the UK. The Atlanta Falcons, at 'home' to the Detroit Lions, had victory snatched away from them with the last kick of the game, but it was not just the Lions who were the winners, with a capacity crowd ensuring that London enjoyed significant economic benefits as well
The NFL International Series first came to the UK in 2007, and now forms a key part of the capital's sporting calendar. The average attendance for games played at Wembley has been in excess of 82,500, around 15,000 higher than the league-wide average attendance for US-based games, with tickets for this year's three games selling out months in advance.
In the context of this continued success, the Deloitte Sports Business Group were commissioned to look at the economic impact the Series has delivered to the capital, as well as how the impact might change if the Series was to develop further.
The first thing we looked at was the impact on London of the two games played in 2013. This is estimated to have been £32million, with the majority of this (£20million) generated from spectators who came from outside London. Of the 167,000 people who came to the games in 2013, 6,500 were from overseas, and 132,000 were from elsewhere in the UK. The other key driver of economic impact was spending by the NFL themselves in London (c.£8million), which included the cost of supporting events such as the NFL Football Festival in Regent Street, estimated to have attracted over half a million fans in 2013.
The Series expanded to two games per season in 2013 and then to three games this year. Given this, we also looked at the estimated impact the capital could expect in the event that the Series moved to four games. We estimate that an expanded series of four games per season would result in a direct economic impact for London of £58million, with spectator spending doubling to £41million.
The final scenario we analysed was the potential economic impact if the International Series was replaced by an NFL team hosted in London for a full season, playing all eight regular-season games in the capital. The concept of a franchise playing all its home games in the UK has received considerable media coverage in recent weeks, however the feasibility of this and the practicalities associated with it remain uncertain. Therefore for the purposes of our analysis, we made a range of assumptions intended to be the least disruptive to the current NFL calendar. Based on this, we estimate that if London hosted an NFL franchise it could generate £102million per year in direct economic impact for the capital, and over £150million to the UK economy when considering the indirect and induced economic impact this spending could create.
The logistics of such a move would require careful consideration on both sides of the Atlantic, with the advent of a London franchise needing to fit into the wider NFL league priorities, navigating issues such as time differences and team logistics. In the UK, it would need to provide the same compelling matchday experience that has so far captured the minds of its UK fanbase.
As the capital prepares to welcome the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars on 9 November, for the final game of the NFL International Series this year, our work has shown that the NFL in London has already delivered significant economic benefit to the capital and has the potential to deliver more in the future.
Alexander Thorpe is a Senior Manager in the Deloitte Sports Business Group